Friday, September 4, 2015

How to cope with election defeat

It’s the morning of September 8, 2015 and the political party you support has been defeated at the polls. Sure if you supported one of the lesser known parties, like the Movement for Social Justice, New National Vision, or whatever the name of that pro-marijuana hippy party is called, you probably saw it coming. However if you supported either one of the main political parties, you know the ones normal people vote for, you are probably a depressed, inconsolable mess on the verge of going on a wild, bitter rant on Facebook.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Customer is always Scre**d!

As the end of August approaches, many Trinbagonains have to face making an important decision that could profoundly affect their lives-whether or not to cut their Cable TV subscription. The reason for this is that the local Telecommunications Authority has ordered local cable companies to cut up to 16 channels from their line up.

It turns out local cable companies have been charging customers for channels that they didn’t have the right to broadcast. Of course, selling something that doesn’t belong to you sounds like theft and fraud to anyone who possesses a soul, which explains why local cable company owners don’t appear to see it that way, and have refused to offer customers a discount.

At 89, Castro’s lies are still alive

Last week brutal autocrat, human rights abuser and beloved revolutionary hero to morons everywhere, Fidel Castro, celebrated his eighty ninth birthday. Fidel of course celebrated in the way he loves best, by jailing some ninety pro-democracy protestors; mostly from the dissident group ‘The Ladies in White’, earlier in the week. That’s one dissident for each birth year with a bonus one thrown in, presumably for a lucky extra beating.  

Joining the Castro birthday party was Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who took time away from the ongoing economic catastrophe unfolding in his home country, to pay tribute to the man whose socialist ideology inspired it. Presumably it was also an excellent opportunity for Maduro to get his hands on some toilet paper. 

The old time days were horrible

For the past two weeks I have been blissfully unaware of election news. That’s because during this time I have been virtually bedridden recovering from a small bout of pneumonia. I say blissfully, because I’d choose nausea, fever and constant coughing over having to stomach anymore election news any day. This election free news nirvana doesn’t look like it will last though. 
Thanks to modern antibiotics, I am well on my way to recovery. If I were born one hundred years earlier, in the good ole days, I might not have been so lucky. In the early Twentieth Century, pneumonia was the leading cause of death in countries around the world, and even minor infections like mine could have meant a death sentence.

T&T needs to be more godless

Forget good customer service, prison officers who know how to lock a prison cell, or more people telling spoken word poets that spoken word poetry sucks. What Trinidad and Tobago really needs are more atheists. What is an atheist, you ask? Well, atheists are people who believe in a natural universe governed by scientific laws, free from supernatural forces. Simply put, atheists are people who don't believe there is an all-powerful, invisible man who can help pick their Lotto numbers.

Now I know what you are going to say. “Some people say atheism is simply a belief, just like religious belief.” No, it isn't. That's something stupid people say because to them it sounds clever. Atheism is simply the lack of believing in the supernatural because there is no scientific evidence to support it. That's all. It doesn't involve eating babies or worshipping Satan. Well, not unless you're into that.

Everybody panic!

Trinbagonians love to panic. It's our second favourite mindset after “not giving a crap”. Last week provided a gold mine of things to panic about. Firstly, people were panicking over whether or not the underwater volcano Kick 'em Jenny was going to erupt, triggering a tsunami.

As everyone knows, God stops hurricanes from hitting T&T. But his stance on major earthquakes and tsunamis is unclear. Kick 'em Jenny has erupted 11 times before with no fanfare. But that was before Facebook, so people didn't know that they needed to panic.

Are we ready for a robot PM?

It's time that we as a nation embrace the idea of electing a robot as prime minister. I know what you are thinking. The notion of being ruled by stiff, unfeeling, soulless beings seems unimaginable. But really, couldn't we use those very words to describe most of our current politicians? Why not replace them with actual robots who would have the added skill of being capable of getting stuff done?

The idea isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. According to a report in The Economist, almost 47 per cent of all jobs will be automated by 2034. It's a trend that looks set to continue for the rest of the century. Humans in low-skill jobs in the service sector, transportation and production are at immediate risk of being replaced by machines.

Man bites dog

Like most Trinbagonians everything I know about the ancient civilisation of China and the customs of Chinese people comes from watching Bruce Lee movies. That's why I wasn't surprised by the public outcry over a video that went viral last week showing Chinese people appearing to skin a dog for eating.

Citizens will fully support you if you need to enter a secret Kung-Fu tournament to avenge your dead father. But just don't do anything weird while you're there, like eat dog meat.
The people in the video were most likely recent Chinese migrants. In China eating dog meat is not widely practiced but some do include it as part of their diet and it is acceptable throughout many Asian cultures. The circumstances surrounding the video are unclear, including whether it was even filmed here. But in our culture, not having all the facts about something doesn't mean you can't still exhibit self-righteous outrage over it.

The Great Dumb Debate

Like everyone else who doesn't have cable TV or reliable Internet access I'm really hoping there is a televised political debate this year. The only entertaining things to watch on local TV are the news, televangelists and Mother Nature ads. That's why I am eagerly looking forward to seeing the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader articulate their stance on the issues while insulting each other with biting one-liners.

I know that some poor deluded people like the T&T Debates Commission have grandiose ideas about the role televised political debates have. Something about democracy, accountability and having an informed citizenry. But for us in the real world, televised political debates are just great dumb entertainment. They're like an episode of the show Maury.

Why T&T will never legalise gay marriage

Last week, many Trinbagoni­ans were shocked and outraged by news coming out of the United States. The news that hit TV show Hannibal had been cancelled. Studio executives at NBC had obviously lost their goddamned minds. This injustice was ignored, mainly because other Trinbagonians were busy being shocked and outraged at the US Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage legal nationwide.

Homosexuals in America can now enter an unholy alliance where they can commit all manner of perversion, such as filing joint tax returns, putting their spouses on their health insurance plans and ensuring their spouses have legal rights to their estates without the need of a will.It's easy to see why people here are upset. Homosexuality is a criminal offence in T&T. But now, thanks to the US Supreme Court, homosexuals here might now start entertaining all kinds of fancy, highfalutin ideas. Like, they're people and they have rights.

Dominican Republic and selective outrage

The Dominican Republic perhaps felt that stripping the rights of hundreds of thousands of their own citizens would have impressed their neighbours in Caricom. Like the way Caricom is with Cuba, a country that has gone further and stripped the rights of all its citizens. But instead, people across the Caribbean were outraged.

Caricom leaders condemned the immigration policies of the Dominican Republic, calling them racist and discriminatory. Unlike Caricom's own immigration policy towards Haiti. Which they pointed out isn't racist or discriminatory, though it might look that way. Haiti is the only Caricom member whose nationals require a visa to travel to other Caricom states. But it's not because they are Haitian or anything. Honest.

Who do you think you are?

I was born Indian. But I self identify as Vulcan. My friends and family though have never accepted me as a Vulcan. They tell me hurtful things like, “fictitious alien races from Star Trek aren't a real identity, you idiot. ” As you can probably tell they are as closed-minded as Klingons.

Of course I know for some people the question of self-identity is a bit more complicated. Take for example Caitlyn Jenner. Being transgender, she has chosen to self-identify as a woman despite being born a man. Most people saw her story as a symbol of courage and honesty. Two words no one ever thought they would use to identify someone associated with the Kardashians.

Then there's Rachel A Dolezal. The white American woman who has chosen to self-identify as black. Dolezal spray-tanned her skin brown and braided her hair to look African American. Just in case this didn't work she also concocted an elaborate back-story of lies. Some of which included being a victim of white racism and even asking her adopted brother who is black to tell people she was biracial. Despite this she insists she doesn't self-identify as a sociopath.

And of course there's Mr Jack Warner. A former FIFA vice-president under indictment by the FBI for alleged corruption. Mr Warner has recently transitioned from self-identifying as Robin Hood to a now hilarious version of Edward Snowden.
Of course the way humans view themselves has always been complicated. In Latin, the word

“identity” means “sameness”. Throughout history humans have devised hundreds of ways in which to express their sameness with some groups while differentiating their sameness from others. Be it race, religion, or whether you think John Oliver is funny.

There is no doubt that questioning old assumptions about identity is a good thing. It helped discredit established ideas like sexism and racism. It's spearheading the advancement of rights for the LGBT community and marginalised groups in general. Part of the Trinbagonaian identity though is being pretty comfortable in not questioning anything. Unless it's whether TV6 should have sold airtime to John Oliver.

A great example of the indifference we have to the way our identity is represented can be seen by watching the “unity dance”. The unity dance is what I call that horrendously lazy collection of clichés that make up what is known here as a “cultural item”.
Making a unity dance is pretty straightforward. Get some moko jumbies, a tassa group, an African dance group, the Shiv Shakti dance group and maybe a belly dancer, and just put them on a stage.

Truly daring cultural items can feature a duet of Mungal Patasar and a steelpan soloist. The finale is of course everyone dancing together awkwardly while Rudder's “Ganges come meet the Nile” plays in the back ground.

This is what we tell ourselves our identity is. A collection of crude cultural stereotypes and unimaginative dance moves. For Trinbagonians, Identify isn't about ideas. It isn't the Ganges or the Nile, a river with tributaries of thought constantly flowing in and out. Rather it's a swamp. A stagnant place where new ideas never enter and old ones aren't allowed to leave.

In T&T you can have your “Trininess” questioned from just the slightest deviation away from this narrow version of identity. Value reason over race? Support gay rights despite the feelings of the IRO? Or believe in physics and not the Charlie, Charlie demon? Then you might not be a real Trini.
If identity is really all about dressing up in fancy costumes and doing odd rituals, then self-identifying as a Vulcan is certainly valid an identity as anything else we have locally.

The exception being that apart from having pointy ears and the ability to do a nerve pinch, being a Vulcan is all about viewing the universe through the lens of logic and reason. It's the idea that beliefs need to be supported by evidence.
As the 2015 general election heats up, and the politics of identity played out. There is perhaps a lot Trinbagoniains can learn from Vulcans. Until then, as my people say, “live long and prosper”.

Learn to love your traffic jam

It's time we give up fretting about traffic jams and learn to love them. Spending hours trapped in traffic is just part of our lives. Like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the Kardashians, traffic jams are never going away.

People say a rapid rail would ease our traffic woes. That won't happen, because the only thing Trinbagonians hate more than being stuck in traffic is not having a convenient excuse to reach to work late. Besides we are not about to abandon our cars for public transport. One of the perks of having a car is to feel smug about not having to use public transport.
Flying cars won't save us either. If we had flying cars here, WASA would discover a way to dig up the sky requiring constant sky closures. This being the T&T sky there would also be cloud potholes everywhere.

Don’t overestimate the trolls

Facebook is undoubtedly a revolutionary innovation that allows millions of people to do things they could have only dreamt of before. Like sharing funny cat videos, passive-aggressive insulting of anyone or anything that annoys them, and of course spying on their exes to see if they're getting fat. I've noticed, though, there are plenty of people who misuse Facebook by doing meaningless things. Like political party supporters who attempt to influence public opinion.